What’s team without a manager to help them win trophies – or at least teach the boys how to not get caught off guard by a sneaky striker? In this article, we will be reviewing some of the best managers that left their mark on the game in the year 2017.
- Graham Potter (Ostersunds FK)
Oster what? Was my reaction when told Arsenal’s last 32 opponents in the Europa League. They were playing in the 4th tier of Swedish football in 2010 and were relegation candidates. Step in Graham Stephen Potter, one of few Englishmen who have left the comforts of the Queen’s land to forge a career path.
With practically a zero-budget, Potter steered Ostersunds into safety before engineering their rise through the divisions. In 2015, they were promoted to the Swedish Allevskan. In May 2017, They won the Swedish cup beating two of Sweden’s biggest clubs along the way; BK Hacken and IFK Norkoppings.
That triumph earned them a place in the Europa league qualifying rounds where they stood no chance against Galatasaray. How wrong we were… They not only beat Gala in Turkey, but drew a standing ovation from the well-known hostile Turkish crowd. They would be the only 4th pot side in Europe’s second tier competition to advance despite trips to Berlin, Bilbao and Zorya.
The coach has got them playing well, said Cuco Ziganda (Athletic Bilbao coach). If Arsenal are expecting to roll over them, they might be in for a shocker especially with Potter’s brilliance. He hasnt veered from his 5-man defence who are out to stifle the life out of the opposition and hit them with fast breaks. Fijasewa Arogunyo
- Lucien Favre (OGC Nice)
No one knew the tiny club in Cote d’Azur till the wily old German came. Building a team of has-beens, Lucien Favre turned Nice from relegation battlers to European challengers in the space of one season.
It’s not easy coaxing the best of egomaniacs like Mario Balotelli and Hatem Ben-Arfa (both of whom we thought were finished). He has also helped resurrect dead careers (remember Dante?), he has helped build too, cue Alhassane Plea (who grew from nobody to a Ligue 1Player of the Year contender), Allan Saint-Maximin (the want-away wasteful winger at Monaco), Jean-Seri (who looks totally like a football misfit when playing for Ivory Coast and allegedly develops cold feet).
It’s not a surprise he has been heavily linked with a return home. Fijasewa Arogunyo
- Tite (Brazil)
Where to start the tale on Tite’s Brazil reign? From aiding Paulinho’s rejuvenation or making a footballing side still reeling from the 2014 World Cup humiliation and disastrous Copa America showing, the first to make it to Russia 2018?
Tite has put Brazil back among the elite and under him, stars and even fringe players have flourished. His success with this Brazil side given the drag of qualifiers and the absence of any major continental or international competitions makes his success hard to put into perspective.
But since he was appointed in 2016, Brazil have lost just one game out of 17, scoring 38 and conceding just 5. Tite has made this happen by solidifying Brazil from the back and creating a strong midfield, drawing top drawer performances from the likes of Fernandinho, Renato Augusto and Paulinho.
2018 will be the year that Tite gets to unleash his new Brazil to the world but for man management, tidy results and making the Samba boys the first to dance to Russia, Tite gets a nod on this list. Apampa Tobiloba
- Ralph Hassenhuttl (RB Leipzig)
RB Leipzig have a philosophy, and it is to only sign players under 25. Ralph Hassenhuttl has done the job perfectly with the resources at his disposal. The German has done a fine job so far despite the vitriol that follows them in the stands.
Nobody works so efficiently under that kind of pressure and succeeds. But Ralph, who has turned Leipzig from second division champions to Champions League contenders, is a different manager. The blueprint has made their challenge at the upper tiers of the Bundesliga sustainable and ensure they dont fall away like those before them. Fijasewa Arogunyo
- Luciano Spalletti (Roma/Inter)
It’s his job! Luciano Spalleti always likes the difficult task. One was overhauling the great Inter team of 2007-2010 with an AS Roma team without a number 9. Best still, taking charge of that AS Roma when they had just finished seventh in the league and were headed nowhere.
He took it to a new level this summer by opting for Inter (who were headed nowhere and you know it, were in a state of utter mess) against renewing his Roma contract. He has coaxed the best out of them, giving them their highest point tally at Christmas since 2010.
It’s not surprising, His 16/17 Roma would have won the title in another Serie A season with the point’s tally they accrued, the highest ever for a runner up. Awolope Kolawole
- Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)
Many had mocked Pep after a trophy-less first season in English football. ‘’We said it’’ many enthused. Who would blame them? City had started the season electrically and then fallen away like a pack of cards. They had been embarrassed out of Europe’s premier competition by Monaco, the team everyone wanted in the draw.
The FA Cup didn’t offer much respite either. Pep was done for. He would alter his style many said. Alas! How wrong we were. With a few tweaks and 100million to spend, Pep has got it right and in style too.
His City team are unbeaten in the league, on the cusp of breaking a record set by his own Bayern (only him eh?) add to that the excellent records in Champions league and Cups. He could yet become the first man to win a quadruple.
- Gernot Rohr (Nigeria)
Gernot who? This was the expression on tabloids when the German was appointed Nigeria’s Head coach. He isn’t popular. The NFF are short-sighted, why appoint an underachiever? The abundance of reproach that met him was enough to discourage him.
He instead set about proving us all wrong. The Eagles have only lost once under him in a competitive game, a 0-2 reversal against South Africa, which is attributed to the absence of several key players. They cruised through their World Cup Qualifying group without defeat picking up the ticket with one game to spare. He has reinstalled belief and many go to the World Cup in Russia believing Rohr can make it happen with his young guns. Rotimi Daramola
- Sean Dyche (Burnley)
When a team gets relegated in the unforgiving Premier League, the first head on the block is the manager, unless you’re a certain Sean Dyche and you’re the manager of a Burnley side. The romance that began with keeping faith has lasted five years and continued no thanks to the smarts of their young manager who since engineering promotion has kept them in a league they had never survived before.
With a modest budget, the clarets are punching above their weight in the premier league and even found themselves in the glamorous top 4. All thanks to Big Sean as I call him. So good, he is a manager in demand and has been mooted to be the next Sir Alex of British football. Fijasewa Arogunyo
- Diego Simeone (Atletico Madrid)
The most animated figure on the touchline in world football (maybe its a tie with Jurgen Klopp) has not stopped giving us a dose of why he is considered one of the finest around. He has managed to keep Atleti competitive inspite of a transfer ban and an ageing squad.
The wily Argentine who was close to leaving chose to stay to share moments at the Wanda with his lovely fans. They have kept a staggering 135+ clean sheets in 256games under him.The ferocity and verve with which Cholo conducts his orchestra from the touchline makes for compelling viewing and makes Atleti the team to beat. Fijasewa Arogunyo
- Maurizio Sarri (Napoli)
Fancy a man-in-suit who smokes in your dugout? Scratch that.
Fancy a chain-smoking tracksuit-wearing ex-banker in your dugout? Meet Maurizio Sarri, who has got Napoli playing undoubtedly the most beautiful football in Serie A. Famed for his glasses and his love for aesthetics, Sarri’s Napoli have got the most goals in Italy’s top division since the start of last season.
If goals counted for points, he would have been a double Serie A winner. Arrigo Sacchi (considered the greatest Italian manager) called Sarri a “genius” and the “most important” factor for his team. “I like how Napoli play, with cojones, attack, attack and attack!” Fijasewa Arogunyo
- Herve Renard (Morocco)
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. We would finally see the famed white shirt at the World Cup. Herve Renard had led Zambia and Ivory Coast to unexpected AFCON triumphs. His decision to try his hand in European football became a bridge too far.
He returned to the continent he had gained much success. He had the pick of his countries, all teams looking for a revival. He plumped for Morocco. How lucky the Atlas Lions were! He has totally transformed them and managed to convince many players in diaspora to turn up for their fatherland.
A Quarter Final exit might have brought his AFCON winning streak to an end, he however swiftly compensated by taking Morocco to the World Cup for the first time in 20 years at the expense of his former Ivory Coast. It should be noted that his Morocco side didn’t concede a single goal in third round World Cup Qualifying. So much for being ranked among the best managers in the world. Awolope Kolawole
- Leonardo Jardim (AS Monaco)
The man who took the herculean task of overhauling PSG without the funds to compete against them weaved his magic spectacularly for the principality outfit. His well-drilled Monaco side obliterated their more fancied counterparts in goals and points in the season 16-17.
While losing his key players weakened his side: he has found a way to keep pace despite an early champions league elimination and an unhealthy 11-point gap behind, you know who. Expect a battle to the end in the Coupe de France and Coupe de la ligue this season. Fijasewa Arogunyo
- Joachim Loew (Germany)
Rarely is longevity and success balanced in international football. Sven-Goran Eriksson led England to two world cups but never reached the semis in any and Morten Olsen led Denmark for ten years with little to show for it.
Remembered fondly for his hand-smelling gesture at Euro 2016, Jogi Löw has kept up the intensity in 2017. Smelling and then tasting success with Germany’s B-team at the Confederations Cup. The German has shown talent is of no essence if it cannot be properly managed (Ask any Argentine manager).
The champions’ mentality in the Manschaft setup is solely his work with even youth players knowing when to dig deep and get results. Derided by many for his experiments, Jogi has shown us time and again that he knows exactly what he is doing. Come 2018, don’t rule out another of that Euro 2016 incident, it could be Germany’s world cup success he smells. History certainly beckons for the Ferguson of international football. Fijasewa Arogunyo
- Antonio Conte (Chelsea)
While we marvel at Pep Guardiola and his globetrotting Manchester city side, we should not overlook the effect of one continental manager, who left his mark in the year 2017. Mr Antonio Conte, a maverick, showed again that great tactical nous, passion and most importantly, hardwork are the keys to producing top footballing sides. He only showed this in a different, yet refreshing manner.
People seem to forget that this amiable Italian didn’t particularly have the benefit of a full integration with his squad after the heroics of leading a quite mediocre Italian team to within spot kicks of eliminating world champions Germany out of Euro 2016. But despite the magnitude of the task, he never shied away from it and promised to bring back a Chelsea side, who failed miserably the previous season, to its rightful perch by marrying good football with hardwork and discipline.
It didn’t take long for the results to be seen. There was a new zeal from players, increased fitness levels and egos that caused frictions the previous season were tamed. Seeing Diego Costa doing his talking on the football pitch was a particularly pleasing sight, and there were returns to form of star players like Eden hazard and Pedro.
Not since the first few seasons of Jose Mourinho was there a passionate connection between the coach and the fans; a particularly telling example of this was him jumping into the stands to celebrate Diego Costa’s winner against West Ham….it was quite a pleasing sight!
Away from sentiments, there were great highlights to back this change, a record equalling consecutive winning streak of 13 games (broken this season by Pep’s exceptional side). A statement win against the same City side, a record number of wins in the English top flight, an English title won comfortably and also with a FA cup final appearance, (not bad for a first season, eh?)
This was all driven by his strong tactical skills, leadership quality and passion all grounded in tireless work and training, a totally refreshing act he was and a beautiful reminder that there is actually beauty and passion in hardwork. Victor Opone & Dele Omoruakhe
- Jose Mourinho (Manchester United)
Remind him that he is not the most popular manager –even amongst his own ranks – and he will most likely retort with an “I don’t care” response. Typical Jose Mourinho.
In recent times, his Manchester United side have had to endure a bad patch of form, forcing the Special One turned The Only One to transform into Jose, the Moaner. In recent times, the Portuguese has been especially adept at finding faults in almost everything. It’s either the insufficient amount of money or the referee or the players not showing enough commitment.
But this does not overshadow the fact that the manager is a winner in his own right. In the calendar year 2017, he managed to win the Europa League title – a first for Manchester United – and the EFL Cup in their win over the Saints. Not bad for a first season managing one of the biggest football clubs in the world. And that’s why he has been ranked this highly amongst the best mangers in the world. Rotimi Daramola
- Massimiliano Allegri (Juventus)
Mad Max, as he is referred to in the Italian press, is one of the finest men around. The manner in which he has kept the Bianconeri at the top of the Serie A pyramid is albeit phenomenal. His conversion of Mario Mandzukic to a winger when Juve’s 3-5-2 was becoming unsustainable, or the switch to a 4-3-3.
Allegri has managed to keep the balance between success and development. Juve’s second final appearance in three years was proof to that, and it is why those at the Emirates are casting an ambitious eye in his direction while it was rumoured Barcelona even considered him before appointing Ernesto Valverde. Rotimi Daramola
- Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid0
Bossing the touchline with the same dexterity and technique he did while as a player, Zizou was the man of the moment in 2017. He has won 8 titles in just 24 months at Madrid, the second most in the history of Madrid. He has turned the Champions League that proved so elusive for 12 years to Real’s playground.
It is the manner in which he has achieved the success which wows the mind. His ability to rotate and keep the egos at the Bernabeu happy is well matched by his flexible tactical nous, which makes Madrid play adaptable to any opponent. Rotimi Daramola
Author: Rotimi “Papi the Great” Daramola
Rotimi Daramola aka Papi the Great is the owner of ForTheGoal.
A freelance sports writer who focuses on football, Rotimi is also a freelance writer, a copywriter and a football analyst who regularly appears on radio and television to talk football. You can follow him on twitter @papi_thegreat to keep up with his writings, engage him and also find out about how you can secure his writing services.